John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Keanu Reeves (The Matrix trilogy, Speed) is back again to reprise the role as John Wick, the man who'd kill an army to avenge his pet puppy, and this time, he's even better than he was in the surprisingly good first film. Following the events in John Wick (2014), the legendary hitman is forced to come out of retirement again (seriously, do these idiots have a death wish or something?) due a rule in the assassin world which he must honour or simply be hunted by the entire organisation. He is required to kill one more target before he is truly free.
With both director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kohstad returning to do this sequel, the film is not only filled with more action than the predecessor, but also expanded the compelling assassin world that we only had a glimpse of. The tone remains to be consistent — deliberately cheesy, corny but with very gritty action sequences and it works, very much like The Raid: Redemption (2011) and its sequel (2014). The plot is bigger than before but still kept simple enough with a typical type of wealthy/power-hungry antagonist. Despite being an all-out action flick, it's also subtly funny. Sometimes because of how weirdly well mannered and clean these killers are, and sometimes it's simply because of how shockingly bad-ass the fight sequences are.
The film clearly wishes to pay tribute to the late great slapstick stuntman-actor Buster Keaton and legendary martial artist-actor Bruce Lee (Stahelski was Brandon Lee's double for 1994's The Crow) and I sincerely believe they would've been proud if they got to see this film. There's probably a bit of homage to The Matrix (1999) too as Laurence Fishburne a.k.a. Morpheus reuniting with Reeves a.k.a. "The One". The action choreography here is somehow more entertaining, stylish, varied and brutally violent than the predecessor's. Like the first film, most of the action sequences are filmed in wide angle shots and many are in one-long takes. I thought I would be at least be a little bored of seeing Reeves doing the same thing again but no, it never seems to be the same. Although it's the genre's cliche that the protagonist wouldn't die, the film still manages to engage, impress and surprise me.
I was just really blown away by how detailed and well crafted every action sequence is. Although Wick is told to be this unstoppable "ghost" by the story itself, he's still very vulnerable. The bullet-proof suit is a brilliant addition to make the characters' survival against each other more believable. Reeves' effort in martial arts and gun-fu training have all paid off. His hand-to-hand combat looks a little slow and stiff when shot in full-body angle but definitely a huge improvement from his performances in Man of Tai Chi (2013). His gun-fu, on the other hand, is perfect. I really like how Wick's double tapping his shots — body first and then the headshot. And also how he quickly and stylishly flicks his empty gun magazines off the wall when reloading. So fucking cool!
Of course, there are a few minor flaws. Like how people in the subway don't even flinch when there's a bloodied man with a poorly hidden gun rush-limping pass them. And the decision to cast Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black TV series) as the mute assassin-bodyguard Ares is questionable as she's cringe-worthily corny and only has one brief so-so fight sequence. But despite all that, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It ends wide open for another sequel and I really hope that it happens. Just please don't fuck it up by doing an over-complicated prequel directed by someone else.
Malaysian censorship: Only frontal nudity was obviously cut. All vulgarities and graphic violence seemed to be left untouched — awesome!
Verdict: Action-wise superior to its predecessor, making it one of the best action movies of the decade.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Action, thriller
Running Time: 122 minutes
Director: Chad Stahelski
Screenwriter: Derek Kolstad
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian Mcshane
Malaysia Release Date: 9 February 2017
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions, Lionsgate
Follow me: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google+